There’s something about the Darkling that seems as lonely to Alina now as she first had that night they spent in the cabin, when she had asked the Darkling how old she was. Her face is drawn, the smallest of frowns tugging at her lips as she regards Alina.
“Haven’t you ever wanted more?” she asks, and Alina finds herself nodding before she can stop herself.
“I think everyone has at one point,” Alina tells her.
The frown flips into the smallest of smiles, and she can’t help but trace the lines of it. The Darkling really is quite beautiful, beyond even Grisha standards. She is powerful and tempered like steel, and yet Alina feels this softness around her, as if she’s only letting Alina in. Bit by bit.
A stupid thought, but one she clings to.
Nobody has ever been fascinated with Alina the way the Darkling is.
“That’s not what I asked, Alina.” And she pitches her voice just right so that it straddles the line between chiding and amusement. The Darkling inclines her head to indicate that she should follow, and she does.
They follow the trail around the lake, Alina’s fingers playing the rays of sunlight bouncing off from the clear water. The Darkling watches with the intensity of a hawk watching her prey, and Alina wonders where the nervous fear about being the prey is.
“Does what I want matter? You’ve brought me here to be a savior,” Alina points out. “I have no idea what that is. I make maps.”
“Yes, I’ve seen your work,” the Darkling laughs, and it’s as clear as the lake.
Alina leans in, wanting more of it. She wants less of the darkness that this woman who bears a title as heavy as hers and more of the light that she has seen beneath the surface. Maybe that’s just a Sun Summoner sort of thing, to crave the light.
To crave the Darkling.
She presses her lips together. “And?”
“You are much better at summoning suns.”
Her nose wrinkles, and the Darkling laughs again. “I’m not very good at doing that.”
“Yes, but you’re better at it than maps. There’s no future in maps, Alina Starkov.” The Darkling stops and turns to face Alina. The light is gone, buried in her stone gray eyes, and that heaviness is back. But still, there’s a curl to her lips when she speaks. “There is one with me, however.”
Alina thinks that she can’t possibly mean what she wants it to mean.